In these crazy times of merging, retailing, managed care and consumer disloyalty, the best and most cost efficient way an office can increase their business and continually remain profitable is by implementing a word of mouth advertising and marketing program.
The key is to motivate buyers (your patients) into talking positively about you so they will not only come back over and over, and recommend your products and services to their friends and families.
Much has been written about the cost of getting a new patient or keeping a patient. The average cost for keeping a patient is about $10.00 a year while soliciting new patients cost from $80.00 a year. Doesn’t it make financial sense to keep your old patients happy and sending in new patients rather than launch an expensive advertising campaign?
The cost of advertising is huge. The average full page ad in the yellow pages cost from $2,000 a month. Most ads look about the same, many offices utilizing Co-op funds from the same vendors to reduce costs. These ads make it difficult from a consumer point of view to tell the difference between one office or the other.
What are the ways of getting new customers without costly advertising and keeping your current patients happy while asking them to refer their families and friends?
You can put together a successful word of mouth program that will do the following;
• Offer something patients want so badly
• Become well known among your current patients that what you have to offer, they won’t consider going someplace else.
• Do valuable things so well that everyone who uses you can’t wait to tell everyone else.
‘In the final analysis, customers are your only source of job security.’ Price Pritchard
- Look at your own attitudes about where you shop and why. Do you often go for price or service? Why do you continue to go back to the same place? The way you shop is the same as the way your customers shop. It is important to look at your office through the eyes of your current and potential customers.
Try the following exercise in order to gain insight into the shopping experience. This exercise is to help you to be aware of two things;
• Everything you do touches your customers.
• To at least one degree we all make buying decisions based on things that have little if anything to do with the value of the product or the place we’re buying.
MAKE A LIST OF DO’S AND DON’TS FROM THE ABOVE CATEGORIES
DO SHOP DON’T SHOP
TIP #1 PROVIDE HASSLE FREE SERVICE
‘The proof of the pudding is not in the tasting but in whether people return for a second helping.’ Bob Levoy
- Hassle free service boils down to one thing and that is attitude. Everything about you and your business proclaims your attitude to every patient who walks in the door. How the patient is greeted, the atmosphere in which they wait, cleanliness, music, displays and even the temperature.
- Implementing hassle free service means taking action to control every factor so that the message communicated about your attitude is positive. The message being.’ We welcome you, we welcome your business, we welcome your comments, we even welcome your complaints.’ We are easy to do business with.
- Your customers expectations rise every day. They are looking for convenience, value, price, styling, performance, guarantees and hassle free service. They constantly look for somebody to exceed their expectations and make their lives easier. If doing business with you makes their lives easier and more efficient they will come back.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Remove the negative signs
EXAMPLE ; Negative Messages sent to your Patients
• No credit , checks accepted
• No trespassing/ Soliciting
• No Returns
• Closed Weekends
• Closed 5:00 p.m.
• 10% handling on bad checks
• We do not process insurance claims
• 50% deposit on all orders, no exceptions
Positive Messages Sent to you Patients
• Payment terms available upon request
• We honor Visa/ MasterCard
• Evening appointments available by appt.
• Your business is important to us….. Thank you for letting us serve you
• Build a sincere, friendly, caring atmosphere
• Hire the right staff, that have a friendly attitude
• Gamesmanship- serving customers is a win- win situation
Make it easy to do business with you.
• Sign up for a check guarantee service
• Accept at least two major credit cards
• Boast that you are easy to do business with
• Guarantee no hassle (see example)
WE GUARANTEE NO HASSLE- When you spend your money with us, you are trusting us to provide you with the best in both products and services. We want to earn your continued business, not give you a hassle. If you are not completely satisfied with something purchased in our office— TELL US. We will make it right or refund your money. We want you business, and we guarantee you NO HASSLE.
(Your name and position as guarantor)
4. Back up your program with staffing and action
5. Strive to constantly exceed your customer expectation all day, every day, every customer.
1. Do not delegate customer satisfaction downward. Take an active role if you want to become the competitor that delight’s customers.
2. Recognize that quality is a given and that response time, delivery, reliability, cost and value added services will be required to gain competitive advantage.
3. Understand all of the underlying issues that prevent your company from delivering top notch customer satisfaction.
4. Resist the temptation to take a piecemeal approach to customer satisfaction improvement simply because the root causes of problems seem too complex and interconnected to allow an integrated solution
5. Base customer satisfaction improvement on a strong executive directive and an action plan containing the principles and tactics that will guide the organization to positive and permanent changes.
6. Survey customers to find out what they think your company’s strengths and weakness are versus your competitors. Listen and respond.
7. Focus the company’s internal activities on quality and response time improvement
8. Tie the measurement system for customer satisfaction improvement to the reward system for management and if possible all employees.
9. Conduct regular cross functional meetings to discuss what’s working, what’s not, and what actions need to be taken
10. Develop a results- driven, tactically oriented action plan with the goal of providing the best customer satisfaction in you industry.
TIP #2 SOLICIT COMPLAINTS
‘Those who enter to buy, support me. Those who come to flatter, please me. Those who complain teach me how I may please others so that more will come. Only those hurt me who are displeased but do not complain. They refuse me permission to correct my errors and improve my service.’ Marshall Fields
- Complaints! We don’t get complaints is usually the reaction from many offices. Every business needs complaints. You should thank your customers when they complain because a complaint is one of the most valuable forms of word of mouth.
- Studies show that most dissatisfied customers don’t talk to you. They just leave and never come back. The typical business does not hear a peep from 96% of its customers who are unhappy. That means that these customers tell as least 10 other possible customers how unhappy they are!! Studies also show that people that complain have an 80% chance of becoming a long term loyal customer. Not only that, if they complain and the complaint is resolved quickly the percentages go up.
- How many times are you asked if you were happy with the service? Very rarely does any business ask. Most of the time you probably didn’t feel that it was your place to tell these businesses how they might have improved. If they didn’t care to ask, why should you have volunteered an opinion?
- Complaints give you information, help improve products or services, and best of all give you the opportunity to save a customer who might be on the way to your competitor.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Advise you customer that you are eager to hear from them.‘We welcome your complaints. If you are displeased or dissatisfied in any way with our product or service, please help up to improve…. Tell us what went wrong and tell us immediately so can immediately begin fixing it.’
2. Put it in a routine mailing
3. Put up signs where people buy.
4. Offer a hotline number (800 number)
5. Put information on warranties and manuals
WHY CUSTOMERS LEAVE
- 1% will die
- 3% move
- 5% Will do business with friends or relatives
- 9% will find better prices
- 14% will have unresolved complaint that drive them away
- 68% Will leave because they see or perceive indifference or a poor attitude at the business
- Total of 82% of customer leave when they could of been saved!
- These 82% can be influenced just by handling complaints immediately and effectively.
TIP #3 MAKE CUSTOMERS YOUR PARTNERS
‘There is only one boss; the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down simply by spending his money somewhere else.’ Sam Walton
- Many offices are embarrassed or don’t think it’s professional to ask their patients for referrals. In reality, your patients would love to send you their families and friends, they just don’t know you want more patients. It is up to you to ask for referrals.
- Consider that you have 2,000 active patients. Each of those patients either knows by family, work or play, 20 other people. Possible patients; 400,000 people who might need, sunglasses, contacts, frames, or lenses. Even if only ten percent referred others, that equals 2,000 referrals in one year! More Bang For Your Buck, just by asking patients to refer.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Ask for a referral
SAMPLE REFERRAL REQUEST LETTER
Dear Mrs. Tom Jones,
Since I began carrying XYZ Products in my office, I’ve discovered that XYZ wearers are my most enthusiastic patients. And if you love your frames as much as my other XYZ patients, I’m sure you are already recommending them to your family and friends. In order for you to share the advantages of XYZ products, I’ve enclosed three certificates for 20% off of XYZ Eyewear that you can pass along to others. Simply fill in your name and theirs and have them call my office for an appointment. If XYZ is right for them, they can use the enclosed certificates
And to thank you, I’ll give you 10% off for every person you refer to me who buys Eyewear in my office. The 10% off can be accrued yearly.
Thank you in advance for sharing your enthusiasm for XYZ and confidence in me with people important to you. You can be assured that I’ll provide them with the same quality of service that you have come to expect from me. I look forward to meeting them and introducing them to XYZ.
Dr. John Smith and Staff
2. When customers comes in for adjustments/ repair, don’t charge, just ask to send another patient
3. On recalls, ask to bring a friend
4. When patients come in with friend, treat the friend like a valuable customer. Show them around
5. When setting up appointments, ask if you can set up any other family members at the same time
6. Give patients office brochures and literature to take back to work.
7. When patients leave, thank them and ask them to send in a friend
8. When patients pick up glasses, ask them to let you know the people who complimented them so you can send thank you letter
9. Signs posted ‘We welcome your referrals’
10. Reward your champions. Reward the patients who send in other patients
• Make up T- Shirts ‘Perfect Patient’
• Form a Perfect Patient Club
• Send candy, flowers, mugs etc…
11. Announce in newsletters, you welcome all referrals
12. Reward Frequent Buyers
• Form a Frequent Buyer Club
• Reward with gift certificates, mugs, discount etc…
TIP #4 YOUR V.I.P. SOURCE OF REFERRALS– YOUR STAFF
‘ If I put a person into a job and he or she does not perform, I have made a mistake. I have no business blaming that person, no business invoking the ‘Peter Principle, no business complaining, I have made a mistake.’ Peter Drucker in Marriot’s Portfolio
- Staff is the first and last contact with the patient. It is essential that each staff member make each patient visit a memorable experience. In day to day life they come across many others who need optical services who are potential patients.
- Not only that, your staff know many people. The average office employs four staff: each staff knows at least twenty people, equals eighty potential patients.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Turn each staff into champions of your business. Reward them with;
• Bonuses on people brought in
• Time off
• Employee of the Month
• Games and Contests
2. Each staff should have their own business card. It give them an identity and something they can use to promote referrals.
• Have them write on the back of every card; 10% discount with this card
• Track results
3. Give staff should have vision benefits.
• Each staff should be wearing colored contact lens as well as a fashionable expensive pair of glasses with UV and AR and Scratch coat.
4. Uniforms are great, but if not applicable to the office, each staff should have at least a name badge.
• Promotes familiarity as well as identity
5. Educate staff
• Subscribe and read all trade magazines.
• Save and file articles that have to do with consumers and patients today.
• Have staff discuss what it means to the office at staff meetings.
• Start a library for staff to learn and educate themselves
6. Each staff member should thank each patient for coming in and ask them to return and bring a friend
TIP #5 YOUR PRODUCTS OFFERED
‘Take nothing on looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.’ Charles Dickens.
- Your product is what you specifically offer for sale to your customers. That product can be the tangible, the actual goods or the intangible which is your services. Either way both establish an image and an identity for future patient referrals.
- There is nothing more flattering when one of your patients gets a compliment on their new glasses. It is actually a compliment on your office. Dispensing products that wear well, last, are hassle free and unique is the surest way to get your patient to come back and send in their friends and family.
- You can control product, services, exclusivity factor, brand names, value, quality, styling , performance and more just from the products you stock.
Questions to ask self:
• What do your intended customer want that they are not getting now?
• What is your competition carrying, that you need to carry or not carry?
• Which products are unique enough to bring in other patients?
• Which products do you carry that will make the dispensary more appealing?
• Which products will give you a selection for all types of patients?
• How are the products displayed for maximum appeal?
• How are the products you are now carrying give you an identity and image?
WHAT YOU CAN DO
. Make a big deal in introducing new products
• Have trunk shows
• Send out vendor postcards introducing new products
• Put it in your newsletters
• Carry only quality you can rely on and trust
• Make special displays for the ‘what new area’
2. Display products by collections with appropriate displays
3. When Patients are leaving, ask them to let you know how many compliments they get.
4. Carry a selection of mid to high end products to give your customers a choice
5. Order in kits for color/ and selection
6. Keep a percentage on the board for unique and trendy products
7. Buy what your patients want, not what you want.
TIP #6 FORM STRATEGIC ALLIANCES WITH OTHER DOCTORS
‘ Right now they are hitting us with a tidal wave. Do we stand on the beach or run away screaming or do we go surfing? We plan to surf.’ Michael Mace, Director of Macintosh Mktg.
- Remember all other fields in the medical industry are in the same situation as you. Managed care has cut major inroads into profitability. Most doctors and other medical professionals are looking to increase their referrals without costly advertising. They are merging and joining together to overcome diminished returns.
- Joining forces with other doctors will it add value to your services, it increase credibility , visibility and professional knowledge of your office.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Make personal and written contact with all local MD.’s
2. Send surrounding medical personnel gifts and cards on Christmas or off holidays such as Valentines or Halloween.
3. Have staff lunch with local MD staff. Encourage staff to promote referrals
4. When referrals are from medical professionals, follow up with thank you and diagnosis
5. Volunteer in rest homes as well as hospitals
• Develop contact with staff as well as patient families
6. Get involved in medical professional societies/ conventions
• Become a speaker, it lends credibility as well as visibility
7. Get Involved with other professionals in your area and network.
• Make up network brochure
8. Don’t forget the speech therapist, pharmacist, physical and occupational therapist, holistic doctors.
9. Get on a hospital staff or volunteer your services
TIP #7 FORM STRATEGIC ALLIANCES WITH LOCAL BUSINESS
‘Get a mix of experience between corporate marketing and marketing firms. It will prepare you for anything.’ Beverly Rindfleisch
- Other outside business are also going through the same crazy times of mergers and large warehouses have made major inroads into the independent business owner. In order for them to survive today they need the same referrals that you do. Many are joining network alliances, but more are banding together to support the independent business operator.
- Don’t forget your staff. Many are active in other business and have ideas or know people that can assist in a word of mouth marketing campaign.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Meet all owners/ staff in your mall, strip center, building. Offer a professional discount.
2. Join the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups
• Exhibit in their business fairs
3. Patronize stores and businesses near you. Get to know them by name
• Join a Barter Club
• Initiate trade outs for referrals
4. Print up good quality and appealing business cards. Business cards reflect you image, quality, competence and reputation.
• Try and match the colors to your office/ uniforms
5. Develop vision care programs with smaller companies
6. Combine forces with local clothing/ accessory stores
• Trunk shows
• Fashion Shows
• Window displays
• Retailing news
7. Network with people in the personalized care business.
• Mary Kay, Beauti-Control, NuSkin, Avon.
• Trunk Shows
8. Join forces with local modeling school or beauty clinic
9. Promote sports eyecare at local health clubs.
• Safety and sports Eyewear
• Offer free visual screening
• Speak on sport safety
• Speak on lens types for different sports
10. Hand out two business card to everybody
• One to them and the other for a friend
11. Form a monthly business club to learn business techniques
• Boutique- retailing
• Party show- fun promotions
• Shoe store- multiple sale information
TIP #8 SCHOOLS
‘Education is a weapon whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.’ Joseph Stalin
- Get your future long term patients today with contacts with schools. Educating parents and children to eye health is crucial for long term loyal patients. Research suggests that kids are starting to need glasses earlier in life. This is attributed not only to environmental conditions but to increased computer usage.
- Parents are willing to spend money proactively for their children. That proactive spending includes effective and preventive eyecare. The extra benefit is not only the employees of the schools, but the parents, families and friends of all the children.
- Once again involve staff. Many staff members have their own children and would like to be more involved in the schooling. Let them offer to go to the schools or have their child come to the office.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Make contact with all schools in your local community or within a 10 mile radius.
• Public schools
• Private schools
• Daycare centers
• Disabled schools
2. Offer free vision screening to students on certain days
3. Volunteer to speak on career days
4. Offer your office for field trips
5. Offer scholarship programs for financially needy students
6. Speak at P.T.A meetings
7. Make contact with local nurses, secretaries. and teachers
• Send letters
• Send newsletters
• Send information to be put up on the bulletin board
8. Develop seminars on eyecare for teachers
9. Donate personalized trial size contact lens solutions, eyeglasses cases, lens cleaners, cloths, to the schools
10. Have local students intern in your office
• Design students for displays
• Marketing students- marketing input and implementation
• Fashion students- consumer responses
• Business students- on marketing, advertising, survey tracking etc..
• Cultural students on marketing to multi- cultural patients
• Optical- for training
• Computer- to set up computer programs and data entry
• Fashion students/ display their fashions with eyewear
TIP #9 COMMUNITY AFFAIRS
‘Private opinion is weak, but public opinion is almost omnipotent.’ Harriet Beecher Stowe
- It is ideal to live in the community in which the office location is located. Primarily because visibility is important to word of mouth referrals. Friends and neighbors are more likely to come to your office if it is in the same community.
- Active involvement in the community leads to visibility as well as credibility. It wins respect for those who don’t know who you are.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Give seminars or speeches on local eyecare with local civic groups
• Look under Clubs/ Organizations in phone book
• Set up specialty trunk shows with different community groups
2. Sponsor Little League/ Soccer teams
• Many companies will offer Co-op funds for this
3. Join Kiwanis, Masons, Letip, Toastmasters, Chamber of Commerce
4. Exhibit in local craft, fairs, festivals
5.) Become active in your church
6. Join the Welcome Wagon to target new residences, connect with Realtors
7. Theater- Offer frames for use in local theater groups
9. Hotels and concierge services
11. Senior Citizen Discount Plans
TIP #10 CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME
‘66% of consumers will choose a product with a relationship with a cause or charitable organization over other ins category if it’s also competitive in price and quality.’ Sales and Marketing Magazine. January l994
- How many times a day are you solicited for money for a cause? Many times, until it gets to the point where you end up saying no to everyone, even those that you believe in. A focused program makes is easier to say no to others. A good giving program starts with the desire to do something positive for others. Statistics show that people are more likely to buy from those who sponsor a charitable cause.
- Charitable activities should help achieve business goals; greater name recognition, increased market shore, more tax deductions, elimination of excess inventory, reduced warehousing costs and increased revenues, boost image.
When deciding to involve you and your office consider the following;
• There are social problems you would like to address.
• Requests for money pour in and you can’t respond to them all.
• You are dissatisfied with you current program. It is a hit or miss, with no employee involvement, no follow up with the recipients or no goodwill accruing to you firm.
• Your offices image is becoming tarnished due to your lack of involvement in local affairs.
• Can you give a major long term commitment to an issue or alliance
84% believe that cause marketing creates a positive company image
64% believe that cause marketing should be a standard part of a company activities
78% would be more likely to buy a product that is associated with a cause they care about
66% would switch brand and 62% would switch retailers to support a cause they care
54% would pay more for a product that supports a cause they care about
30% would pay 5% more
24% would pay 10% more
62% are impressed with a company that commits to a cause for more than a year.
* Cone/ Roper Benchmark Survey on Cause Related Marketing
WHAT Programs Consumers Favor
45% Youth training programs
40% Stay in school programs
36% Improving public schools
36% Environmental clean up
28% Drug outreach
28% Health education
25% Improving parks and libraries
13% Fundraising for charities
9% Sponsoring cultural events
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Develop a program focus
• Link contributions to marketing objectives
• Adopt written guidelines for giving
• Assess all projects
• Don’t give involved in controversial issues
2. Set up fund-raisers (10% to be donated)
3. Sponsor scholarships for disadvantaged children
4. Get involved with neighborhood out reach programs
5. Donate eye examinations
6. Get involved with ‘Good Samaritan’ Groups
7. Sponsor sporting events
8. Have your own special charitable event.
9. Form charity clubs with other business
10. Involve employees
• Improves morale
• Promote volunteerism
11. Include non cash gifts, you do not always have to give money, assets, time, inventory are important gifts as well
12. Take a leadership role
HELPFUL HINTS/ TYPES OF GIVING
1. Gifts of Time
2. Gifts of Volunteers
3. Gifts of Services
4. Gifts of depreciated property
5. Gifts of excess inventory
7. Gifts of Revenue and Cash
• Certain percentage of what they spend goes to….
TIP #11 THE SHOWROOM
‘ It’s a question of whether we’re going to go forward into the future, or past to the back.’ Dan Quayle
- The minute the patient walks in your office, sublimely they evaluate who you are. From the outside area to the bathroom, your patient is determining whether or not they want to stay or leave, and more importantly whether they will refer friends and family. The new name, the showroom!
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Make sure all area sis clean and neat at all times
2. Make sure all posters and magazines are clean and up to date
3. Show you are up to date on fashions and trends by fashion magazines
4. Keep a notebook about the name brands that you are carrying.
5. Keep patient education information together
• Utilize lens and public relation guides from professional groups. Keep them in the reception room as well as the dispensing room
6. Be hospitable, Offer cookies, coffee, water to all patients
7. Have a kids corner, even with computer games to keep them occupied while mom and dad are having their eyes examined
8. Keep a notebook of articles about eyecare form consumer magazines. This helps to validate the importance of your and your products and services being offered
9. Help to make the patients feel good. Keep fresh flowers and offer a flower to patients as they are leaving the office
10. Introduce a guest book. This is the start of a mailing list/email list
11. Have a telephone installed for your patient convenience
12. Keep a candy jar on the counter
13. Keep a notebook of patients in the news or a bulletin board.
14. Introduce lifestyle dispensing computer programs in the showroom
15. Utilize patient questionnaires to examine lifestyle needs. 79% of add ons or second pair sales are done in the chair.
16. Have a sign that says’ Thank you for your referrals’
17. Use video/DVD machines to show fashion eyewear. Many vendors have Tapes/CD/DVD that can be spliced together for continuous runs.
18. Have somebody to refer patients to in emergency. Keep business cards out.
19. Use real potted plants
20. Watch the smell, music and temperature
21. Validate parking
25.) Have Great Signage- Consumers want to find products easily. Good Signage will point the consumer in the right direction
- Gift Certificates
Sport and Safety
- Contact Lens Department
Budget Eyecare (if not out of sight)
- Sign offering discount on second pairs
- Sign posted ; Ask Us About UV, IR, Polycarbonate, AR, Mirror Coatings, Progressives , Contact
TIP # 12 IN THE CHAIR
‘If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.’ Charles Kettering
- Doctor/ patient professionalism in the chair is more at stake today than ever. If the patient wanted impersonal service they would have gone to the local chain store or discount operation. It is crucial to add value and professionalism to the services you already offer in the chair. Reinforce the value of their decision to come to see you.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Disinfect equipment and hands in front of patient.
2. Be interested in your patients. Ask questions
3. Strive to hear ‘I’ve never had that done before. They will feel that they have had the best exam
4. Take blood pressure
5. Educate patients; Explain what you are doing and why.
• Lens options for their lifestyle
• Frame options for their lifestyle
• Importance of good sunglasses
• Importance of annual eye exam
6. Walk patient to dispensary and make Rx recommendations to staff in front of patient or use a recorder
7. Set up next appointment when they leave
8. Use lifestyle examination form
9. Call each patient personally 2-3 days after they have received glasses/ contacts.
TIP # 13 COST EFFECTIVE MARKETING TECHNIQUES
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Patient focus groups and surveys can provide valuable feedback on customer service, needs of your patients.
2. Quarterly newsletters/ Email, Website, Blogs
• Have staff write their own column
• Have vendors write their own column
• Give away to other business, welcome wagons etc..
• Utilize Co-op advertising programs from vendors
3. Office brochures- can be used in a variety of ways
• Send to telephone callers
• Give to patients in reception area
• Walk ins
• Use as Direct mail
• Use in civic events
• Use for speeches and seminars
• Use in publicity kits/ news releases
• Give to patients to give to friends
• For recall
• For welcome wagons, direct mail
4. Send Thank you letters to all patients who have referred somebody
5. Mail ‘Welcome to Our Office’ notes to all new patients
6. Ask each patient how you can improve
CALL TO ACTION
‘There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.’ Machiavelli
The hardest part is always implementation and follow up. set reasonable goals and assign people to be responsible for implementation. Talk about it at staff meetings and you can measure the success. A strong recommendation is to reward success with your staff- gives them an incentive to follow up and follow through.